Regardless of what happens in the markets, Ferd is well-positioned with strong portfolio companies, a strong capital position, good liquidity and an extremely competent organisation. If it proves to be the case that 2014 sees sharp falls in markets, Ferd has both the ability and, hopefully, the willingness to make use of the opportunities that will arise.
At the start of 2013, I felt very uncertain over the market outlook for the year ahead. We can now look back and say that 2013 was a very good year, both for Ferd and for the markets in which Ferd is active, which benefited from lower interest rates and additional liquidity provided by the American central bank. Many countries in the eurozone were still suffering from the effects of the financial crisis at the start of 2013. Fortunately, their economic performance in 2013 was far better than might have been expected. Economic recovery was further strengthened by a relatively good performance from the American economy. Ferd holds approximately 75% of its capital base in equity instruments. This is a natural allocation given the owner's long-term investment horizon.
Ferd generated an overall return for 2013 of NOK 4.9 billion, equivalent to a 25% return.
Ferd generated an overall return for 2013 of NOK 4.9 billion, equivalent to a 25% return. Favourable market conditions did of course contribute to this strong return, but it was also the result of making good use of the sizeable investment capacity we had available in 2013, good operating performance from our portfolio companies, and investment returns that outperformed the relevant benchmark indices.
Following business disposals in 2013 that generated around NOK 3.5 billion of cash, Ferd had very strong liquidity throughout 2013. The company did not revert to drawing on its NOK 6 billion credit facility until January 2014. In a situation with very good liquidity, it is important to be patient and not feel under pressure to make major investments quickly. It is a relatively common experience that the worst investment decisions are made when liquidity is plentiful. One of Ferd's particular strengths is that we invest in a wide range of asset classes, ranging from long-term ownership interests held by Ferd Capital through to Ferd Invest's liquid holdings of listed shares. The breadth of our activities means that we are well able to handle large fluctuations in liquidity.
One of Ferd's particular strengths is that we invest in a wide range of asset classes, ranging from long-term ownership interests held by Ferd Capital through to Ferd Invest's liquid holdings of listed shares.
Ferd Capital reported a healthy return of 31% for 2013. The return for the year reflects the positive effect of generally higher pricing of shares as well as a weakening of the Norwegian krone exchange rate against the euro. However, Ferd Capital reported a satisfactory return from its portfolio companies even before taking these effects into account.
As part of Ferd's active ownership of portfolio companies, the preparation of an annual ownership agenda for each company plays an important role. Through this agenda, we seek to define what role we can play to ensure that each company can benefit from Ferd's flexibility and long-term commitment in order to achieve growth in revenue and profitability. We make active use of Ferd's capital strength and its expertise to take advantage of opportunities for portfolio companies to make appropriate strategic acquisitions. However, in its routine collaboration with portfolio companies, Ferd pays particular attention to organic growth, good operational performance and strong cash flow.
2013 started well for Aibel, but growth in the volume of new construction orders proved weaker than expected. The high cost base associated with operating on the Norwegian continental shelf has become a challenge in many areas, and virtually all EPC assignments undertaken in 2013 were sourced from Asia. At the start of 2014, Statoil indicated that it wished to reduce the volume of work carried out under its framework contract in 2014, and that it would continue to reduce or defer new modification assignments. These developments have made it necessary for Aibel to adapt its resources to the level of activity now anticipated, and this has unfortunately led to a significant reduction in headcount. Aibel is now implementing measures to develop and enhance its international strategy in order to ensure that it is well-equipped to compete in the international market that is expected to perform well over the long term.
In addition to generating a good return in its own right, Ferd Invest provides insight and expertise in the capital markets that is of great benefit to other business areas in the group. We succeeded in 2013 in making very good use of this opportunity for teamwork.
Ferd supports the measures that Aibel is now implementing, and we are confident that these will result in Aibel being a very competitive player in a sound long-term market.
Elopak operates in markets that have shown little or no growth over many years. Elopak's most important market, the European market for fresh milk, has registered a modest annual decline over a number of years. The European market for juice products fell by 2-4% in 2013. Elopak has successfully won market share through product innovation, and this has made it possible to maintain its sales volumes. In recent years, Elopak has invested heavily in several exciting opportunities. The most promising project is the development of roll-feed material for aseptic packaging, known as EloBrick. This represents a large market in which Elopak has not previously participated. Elopak's newly-developed fully aseptic carton filling machinery is currently undergoing testing with customers, and the results so far are encouraging. In addition, Elopak has made significant investments in facilities in Aarhus in Denmark, Montreal in Canada and St. Petersburg in Russia, and we expect these to generate sound profitability. From a position as a company characterised by a lack of growth, Elopak has now created a good foundation for growth and for generating a sound return for Ferd in future years.
Interwell reported revenue growth of 55% in 2013, principally as the result of its continued international expansion, and the company has ambitious plans for the future. Ferd increased its ownership interest in Interwell to 50% in January this year, and following this the company is Ferd's largest single investment. Ferd intends to provide both capital and expertise to help Interwell achieve its growth ambitions.
In July 2013 Ferd acquired Servi, a rapidly-growing company that develops and produces hydraulic systems, cylinders and valves for offshore, maritime and land-based industries. Ferd has developed expertise through its investments in Aibel and Interwell that will help Servi to strengthen its position as the leading Nordic company in its sector.
Mestergruppen, Swix Sport and TeleComputing all reported sound performance in 2013. The valuations of all these companies improved sharply in 2013, due in part to higher pricing of comparable companies.
Special Investments operates in accordance with a very precisely defined investment philosophy, and is possibly the business area that is able to make greatest use of Ferd's competitive advantage of having long-term capital, a flexible mandate and short decision making paths.
Ferd Invest achieved a return of 41.2% in 2013. This again represented outperformance compared to the benchmark index. The value of Ferd Invest's share portfolio at the close of 2013 was in excess of NOK 5 billion, representing approximately 20% of Ferd's value-adjusted equity capital. In addition to generating a good return in its own right, Ferd Invest provides insight and expertise in the capital markets that is of great benefit to other business areas in the group. We succeeded in 2013 in making very good use of this opportunity for teamwork.
Ferd Special Investments is the business area of Ferd that has an "unrestricted" mandate to allow it to take advantage of opportunities for good investments that arise either as a result of particular market circumstances or in areas that are outside the mandates of Ferd's other business areas. The business area was first established in early 2009, and has produced very good results for every year since. 2013 was a particularly good year, with a profit of NOK 573 million and cash receipts of NOK 605 million from dividends and disposals. Special Investments operates in accordance with a very precisely defined investment philosophy, and is possibly the business area that is able to make greatest use of Ferd's competitive advantage of having long-term capital, a flexible mandate and short decision making paths.
Ferd's investments in hedge funds help to diversify the risk exposure that arises from holding a large proportion of its capital base in equity investments. Ferd Hedge Funds reported a return of 7.8% in US dollar terms for 2013, which was somewhat better than the benchmark index.
Ferd Real Estate's return on investment over recent years has been held back by some investments that that have not yet produced any return. We took steps to refine our strategy in 2013, introducing more frequent assessments of each investment's potential for further growth in value while placing less emphasis on the current yield. We believe that this change in approach will make better use of Ferd's capital strength and allow us to operate somewhat differently from many other players in the real estate market.
We have proved successful in the past at making progress regardless of market conditions, and our ambition is to achieve this again in 2014.
Ferd has a major involvement in social entrepreneurship through Ferd Social Entrepreneurs. The portfolio comprises eight active social entrepreneurs with a range of different activities, but with a primary focus on helping to improve the situation of children and young people. A further four social entrepreneurs were elevated in 2013 to an Alumni portfolio, where the companies are financially self-sufficient and no longer receive financial support from Ferd. Many of Ferd's employees, together with employees from our subsidiaries, are involved in our social entrepreneurs' activities and contribute their knowledge and expertise. It is readily apparent that Ferd's involvement in social entrepreneurship has a positive effect on the company's other business activities. The social entrepreneurs achieved very convincing social results in 2013, and there is no doubt that Ferd Social Entrepreneurs is succeeding in making a difference.
Ferd's overall return was over 20% in both 2012 and 2013. Our expectations for 2014 are somewhat more cautious. The outlook for Norway suggests slower economic growth, not least because investment spending in the oil sector will level off. Regardless of what happens in the markets, Ferd is well-positioned with strong portfolio companies, a strong capital position, good liquidity and an extremely competent organisation. If it proves to be the case that 2014 sees sharp falls in markets, Ferd has both the ability and, hopefully, the willingness to make use of the opportunities that will arise. We have proved successful in the past at making progress regardless of market conditions, and our ambition is to achieve this again in 2014.
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